Bowsher looks to defend its City League title with infielders (front, from left) Braiden Greisiger, Mac Jewell, and Joel McGorty, and outfielders (back, from left) Joey Keil and Jacob Empey. The Rebels finished 22-5 last season.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
The pieces are in place for Bowsher to repeat as City League baseball champion.
There are plenty of returning starters for Rebels coach Lew Ackerman.
“I think our boys have worked hard in the offseason and are ready to compete with the better teams in the area,” he said. “The team chemistry is good, and they have confidence that was built in from last year’s success.
“The younger players are as hungry to compete as the older players, and that is always a great asset when trying to win ball games.”
Bowhser, Start, Waite and Rogers played in the City League final four tournament last year and are early season favorites to be there again.
Bowsher (22-5, 8-2 City League) returns a loaded lineup. Seniors Jacob Empey, Joey Keil, and Joel McGorty lead the way, along with juniors Mac Jewell and Braiden Greisiger.
Empey, an outfielder, is the top returning hitter after batting .386 in his junior season. Keil, also an outfielder, proved to be a tough out after batting .368 last season. McGorty is the Rebels’ top returning pitcher after posting a 7-1 record as a starter a year ago. He fanned 63 batters and registered a stellar 1.35 ERA.
Infielders Jewell and Greisiger batted .346 and .302, respectively, as sophomores.
Duplicating their efforts from a year ago would provide a good indication of the Rebels contending for the City League title.
“This year’s league race is wide open for a number of teams,” Ackerman said. “There is a good opportunity for this year for a couple of different teams to win the league. Last year’s final four teams [Bowsher, Rogers, Start, Waite] should have a great chance to repeat in making the final four.”
Infielders Marion Bryan, Will Hutt, Mitch Vanderhorst, Dakota Thomas, Kody Markowiak, and utility player Angelo Foust are newcomers focused on making an impact for a more experienced Rebels team than 2012’s group.
Start coach Jason Biniker couldn’t complain about how the Spartans went through the City League regular season. They were a perfect 10-0.
Yet the Spartans didn’t close the deal after losing to Bowsher in the City League championship.
The Spartans have their sights set on contending again for the league’s top prize.
“I feel that most teams feel very good about their No. 1 pitchers, and the city champion will be the team that plays the best during the two-day City tournament,” Biniker said.
Start seniors Travis Kominek and Alex Duncan, All-City first team honorees last season, give Biniker two of the league’s top returners to lean on this spring.
Kominek owned a 2.71 ERA, striking out 53 and finishing with a 4-5 record as a starter. Duncan returns as Start’s top batter after boasting a .328 batting average, which included tallying eight doubles and driving in 16 runs.
Juniors Jacob Cannon and Austin Pier also bring experience and talent to the Spartans’ dugout. Cannon batted .324 and scored 24 runs last season, and Pier saw some time on the mound last year, earning a 0.81 ERA and a 2-0 record.
Finding some steady support from nearly a dozen newcomers to the Spartans’ dugout will figure in determining how much success they’ll enjoy this season.
“We have many new players who are going to improve over the year as they get varsity experience,” said Biniker, who is in his fourth season as the Spartans coach. “I feel our group is talented and has a lot more depth than we have had in the past and competitiion has been very high to earn playing time.
“The key to our success will be our defense and how dominant our pitching can be.”
Waite (7-2-, 6-4) will call on a number of newcomers to end up among the league contenders.
Yet senior Joshua Murphy should provide plenty of pop in the Indians’ lineup. He batted .442 last season, which ranked second overall in the City League. He also clobbered 12 home runs and drove in 21 runs.
Murphy was also a powerhouse on the mound for Waite, fanning 72 with a 2.83 ERA.
Rogers (7-14, 4-6) is hoping to bounce back from struggles last season.
Senior utility player Nate Rea and junior pitcher/outfielder Ryan Szajka lead the way for the Rams. Rea batted .339 and drove in 18 runs, while Szajka led the Rams with a .411 showing at the plate with 19 RBIs.
Scott (2-15, 1-9), under coach Ralph Green, is hoping to see some major improvements from a year ago.
Seniors Bryan Pickney, Antonio Simmons, Isaiah Middlebrooks, and Shawn Schroeder and Jeff Avilla-Brown lead the returners for a team looking to show improvement.
“Our overall team expectations are to keep improving every game and continue to build the program,” Green said. “The numbers are up and the players are working hard to get better.”
Rashard Ticey, Jamal Flunder, and Trey Brown are new additions who have shown promise heading into the season for the Bulldogs.
Woodward’s seniors pitcher Terrell Robinson and infielder Keon Johnson represent the top returners for a Woodward team coming off a 4-12 overall showing and 2-8 in league play.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.